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24 Feb, 2012 08:58

Putin in black and white: The man revealed

We still know almost nothing about the man who ruled Russia for almost a decade. A biography said to reveal the man that lurks behind the brand Vladimir Putin has been released in London.

The Russian prime minister and top candidate for presidency is now looming large on a London iconic double-decker bus. Putin is coming – it proclaims. Some may find the wording of the advert slightly sinister, but as RT’s Laura Smith discovered on London streets, some do not even have any idea of who he is. As Putin’s image tours the British capital, perplexing some townsfolk, not that many are aware it is all to do with a new book by British author Chris Hutchins and Russian journalist Aleksandr Korobko.The two journalists have hunted for six years to track Putin’s money, his friends, his enemies. The authors say Putin is a highly-personal biography which reveals all the innermost facts about one of world’s most cagey leaders.It seems like it is hard to encode a former spy. But Hutchins, an investigative journalist renowned for his biographies of The Beatles, Princess Diana and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, says he has succeeded in revealing the man. He met people who knew Vladimir Putin as a child, an intelligence officer and an ordinary city council official at times when no one could have predicted he would be at the pinnacle of Russian politics for more than a decade.

The sources proved to be good: as early as 2005, Hutchins was told that Putin would step down as president in 2008 to become prime minister, and then return to the Kremlin in 2012. The first part of the presumption has been verified, the second is apparently about to come true, with the latest polls suggesting Putin is likely to return to Russia's top job. Co-author of the book, Aleksandr Korobko, who is a London-based Russian journalist and TV producer, told RT’s Laura Smith: “Putin is probably the most interesting politician in the world at the moment. He’s a great personality, he has a huge background. He has a very serious following. Yes, there are those who feel ambivalent towards him, those who love him and those who don’t, but the most important thing is that nobody can say they don’t know about Putin.”